Using Online Buzz in Ministry.

Last night I read/watched a great bit about how Doritos missed a real opportunity with their superbowl ad. It reminded me of how I once utilized the window of closing opportunity to reach thousands of college students in less than a weekend with a message of hope. 

And how our national Campus Crusade media team couldn’t share my story.

It was 2006, and facebook had just implemented a new feature called the “News Feed,” which showed in near-real-time what your friends were doing. I was browsing late one afternoon, and saw that three of my “friends” (a loose term for facebook acquaintances) had joined a group called “If 100,000 people join this group my girlfriend will let me have a threesome.”

I checked out the group, read the brief description of it, and noted that there were 26,000 members. Then, out of curiosity, I refreshed the page. The number of members jumped by 4,000 in just a few minutes.  I clicked refresh again.  The number jumped by 35 in less than 10 seconds. People were joining this sexualized group at an unbelievable rate.

That’s when I had an idea. We had a website designed for students looking for a safe place to investigate Christianity of which I was an administrator locally. One article on the site was entitled “Sex and the Search for Intimacy.” It was a well written piece about how sex is primarily not about pleasure or thrill-seeking, it’s about a search for intimacy that can ultimately be found in a relationship with Christ.

I decided that I would join the group and post a few links to the article on the “wall” for the group. Over the next couple of days, more than 5,000 people clicked on a link to that article, and 13 people indicated a decision for Christ after reading the article. Now, I’m not so naive as to think that a click on a link is the same thing as a commitment to Christ.  But let’s say that one or two people who came to that site left and reevaluated their priorities in light of eternity. I’d call that a victory.

A month later I got a call from our ministry’s corporate headquarters wanting to know how we had gotten so many hits. 

The next most visited site on the network had something like 1,000 hits in a month.   We had double that many hits in one day, thanks to my use of links.  When I told them, though, they were understandably hesitant to run the story.

The interesting part about the other site is that they spent hundreds of dollars on promotional pieces and online ads to generate those 1,000 hits.  I used a couple hours of time and $0 to generate more than 5,000 hits.  The power of social media (that Doritos should have harnessed last night) is that, when used correctly, you can reach a very targeted audience with your message, and not spend a dime.